The food entity known as Canal House Cooking first came across our A-List radar in 2010, after Gwyneth Paltrow—acting as a guest judge for Food52’s annual “Piglet Tournament”—voted Canal House Cooking the year’s best cookbook. After reading her doting descriptions of the book’s “notebook-esque feeling” and the “breeziness of the photos and the stories about the contributors’ food backgrounds,” we had to do more digging about the Goop goddess’ new favorite food source. As it turned out, this gem was but one installment in a larger seasonal cookbook collection, and the result of a remarkable collaboration between the founding editor and the test kitchen director of Saveur magazine, respectively, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton. Then came the serendipitous discovery that this dynamic duo was hard at work—in the town next door.
Fast-forward to nearly a decade later: Hirsheimer and Hamilton are still up to all good, this time on a brand-new studio and Canal House Restaurant, both in Milford, New Jersey, as well as their ninth cookbook, Cook Something: Recipes to Rely On (to be published in September 2019 by Little, Brown). We sat down with them to dish about their food and their future.
On their origin story: “Years ago, we worked with each other as food editors in the magazine world. We traveled the globe in search of essential and authentic recipes. It was great and exciting. But our work took us both away from our families, our homes, and our gardens—away from what really matters, after all.”
On their food POV: “Home cooking should be simple. But for too many people (especially young people), it seems intimidating. We’ve been cooking for years and love to share our kitchen knowledge. We want to pass along what we’ve learned and encourage everyone to cook—it is our mission. Wholesome, healthy home cooking feeds both the body and the spirit.”
On their book collection: “We live in little towns across the river from each other: one in New Jersey, the other in Pennsylvania. So we decided to join forces and write our own cookbooks, the Canal House Cooking series—home-cooking by home cooks for home cooks. With a few exceptions, we use ingredients that are readily available, with easy-to- prepare recipes, all completely doable for the novice and experienced cook alike.”
On their new digs: “Canal House is a studio, workshop, dining room, office, kitchen, lair, lab, atelier, and restaurant devoted to good ideas and good work relating to the world of food. We write, photograph, design, and paint, but in our hearts, we both think of ourselves as cooks first.”
On their new adventures in cooking: “We just opened our studio as a restaurant, Canal House Station, in a restored railroad station in the little Delaware River town of Milford. The loving restoration took about a year and a half. We consulted with the Farrow & Ball folks to choose paint color and wallpaper. At first, we thought of it as our studio, but then we decided to open it up to the public [as] a restaurant!”
On their seasonal menu: “We wanted to keep it simple: a breakfast and lunch café. Inspired by the farmers, growers, and food artisans all around us, we shop in farmers’ markets when the seasons allow, and cook along with the seasons. Our menus will reflect our philosophy. We also hatched the idea to reintroduce [the notion of ] Sunday Dinner, a wonderful old-fashioned tradition where friends and family gather around the table in the middle of the day. We serve a set, family-style menu, and our dinner hours will expand as we grow.”
On their ongoing mission:“We want to share with fellow cooks our love of food and all its rituals. The everyday practice of simple cooking and the enjoyment of eating are two of the greatest pleasures in life.”